Thursday, April 4, 2013

How The Mighty Have Fallen


By the time the Titanium Man makes his third appearance, as the lackey of the communist scientist known as Half-Face (Tales of Suspense #s 93-94), he seems to have been reduced to being little more than a two-dimensional villain who periodically emerges to battle Iron Man. "Bigger," "stronger," "deadlier," "more powerful than ever," "how will I stop him this time?", you know the drill. And they're not kidding about that "bigger" part. In his last encounter with Iron Man, the Titanium Man claimed that he consumed "special hormone pills to enlarge my body--so that I can control my titanium suit with ease!", an explanation really just for our benefit in order to quickly skirt around the obvious effort to make the Titanium Man a more visually looming, menacing threat to Iron Man (or perhaps simply to accommodate the liberties artist Gene Colan was taking with the character). But, jeez Louise, the guy was starting to look like he was attaining Goliath proportions:




At any rate, the motivations of Boris Bullski--who, in case you've fogotten, is the Titanium Man--seem to have been abandoned by both Marvel and, apparently, by Bullski himself:



I ask you: does Bullski seem like the type of man to let others call the shots for him? He may still staunchly believe in communism and be willing to advance that agenda for his superiors--but he's also arrogant and ambitious, and clearly has his own aspirations of attaining power. Yet since his first defeat, we've seen nothing of Bullski himself, and heard only communist dogma repeatedly spouted from the helmet of the Titanium Man. The time was when it was Bullski who sought to prove his mettle against Iron Man--Bullski who fought for his own agenda. When Half-Face fishes him out of the ocean where he was abandoned after his second defeat at Iron Man's hands, Bullski seems to have put even more of his personal identity aside. And Iron Man seems as surprised as we are:



So if you were hoping that Bullski would re-emerge in this battle and somehow reclaim his drive to use Iron Man's defeat as a means to advance his status in his homeland, that Boris Bullski seems forever shelved. And maybe that was really established with his first defeat. Iron Man humbled him considerably then; and on the battlefield, Bullski seemed to lose much of his confidence, in both himself and his armor. Perhaps his status as the Titanium Man is all that he has left at this point. On the bright side, if he keeps growing like he has, he may be able to someday beat Iron Man just by stepping on him.

For now, though, Colan's depiction of him is still enough to give him some amount of credibility as far as being a legitimate threat to Iron Man:



And you know something? He should be. He has stronger armor... greater strength... and Iron Man seems to have a very short list of counter-measures. For instance, right off the bat this third story recycles tactics that proved ineffective in their last battle:



Never happened before? Au contraire, it has happened before, with one difference--then, the Titanium Man's armor rebounded the repulsors back to Iron Man, making him lose the initiative and turning the tide of battle against him. That's not something likely to slip your mind when you're thinking of ways to strike back. But look what follow-up tactic Iron Man again uses, just as he did the last time:



Wouldn't it be nice if Iron Man, for a change, got his hands on the Titanium Man? Perhaps if he skates over some gum he'll be forced to consider it.

Why don't we switch gears for a moment, and take a look at Half-Face, who has his own aspirations--wanting to become the next Mandarin. (And who wouldn't?)



No explanation is given as to why Bullski would willingly sign on with Half-Face and table his own desire for power. In his alliance with Half-Face, the Titanium Man is little more than an enforcer, a loaded gun pointed at any target that Half-Face wishes. Though when Iron Man arrives on the scene to investigate Half-Face's threat to the region, the Titanium Man hardly needs to have his arm twisted to attack.

And speaking of our Roller Derby star, let's see if the Titanium Man is any closer to getting his mitts on him:



With his power so low from doing wheelies, Iron Man has no choice but to fake unconsciousness and fold like a cheap tent. And with the immediate threat dealt with, Half-Face gives the Titanium Man orders for his next target--to wipe out the nearest peaceful village under cover of darkness, in order to make it look like American bombers were responsible. I don't know why Half-Face has to accompany his lackey, but it gives Iron Man the chance to recharge and arrive on the scene in the nick of time:



Wow, Bullski--could you be any more of a lap dog? Half-Face is already calling himself your "master," with no argument from you--what's that armor good for if it ends up giving you less status than you already had?

Anyway, before the Titanium Man can do more than begin his rampage through the village, he and Half-Face realize why they should both be more familiar with American terms like "playing possum":



But while Iron Man engages the Titanium Man, another factor is added to the battle when Half-Face realizes that his long-lost wife and son are part of the village's population:



You're probably thinking what I'm thinking--this woman won't win any Mother of the Year awards. I don't know of too many mothers who will flatly turn down an opportunity to save their child from certain death. Let's hope that Iron Man can refer him to Social Services--assuming he comes out on top in this fight. And that looks pretty likely, since Iron Man's unofficial nickname around Stark Industries is "the cable guy":




But it's Half-Face himself who discovers his conscience and puts the Titanium Man down for good:



Ha ha. His "greatest creation." I don't recall seeing your handiwork anywhere on that armor, Half-Face, old boy.

If you're wondering whether or not the Titanium Man is truly "gone," as Iron Man says, I wouldn't bet the farm on it. We have a couple of more Iron Man/Titanium Man battles to explore before we can determine if the real Boris Bullski is still in that hunk of metal somewhere, which their next encounter at least addresses. I can at least promise you one thing--we've seen the last of those blasted roller skates for the duration. And thank heaven. I was afraid the Titanium Man might modify his suit to include his own set of wheels, and there's only so much of the ridiculous I can stand.

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